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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
was to spend the next forty years of his life as student, assistant
professor, professor, and finally rector.
Hoping to make Kazan ultimately the equal of any university
in Europe, the authorities had imported several distinguished
professors from Germany. Among these was the astronomer
Littrow, who later became director of the Observatory at
Vienna, whom Abel mentioned as one of his excuses for seeing
something of 'the south'. The German professors quickly recog-
nized Lobatchewsky's genius and gave him every encourage-
ment.
In 1811, at the age of eighteen, Lobatchewsky obtained his
master's degree after a short tussle with the authorities, whose
ire he had incurred through his youthful exuberance. His
German friends on the faculty took his part and he got his
degree with distinction. At this time his elder brother Alexis
was in charge of the elementary mathematical courses for the
training of minor government officials, and when Alexis
presently took a sick-leave, Nikolas stepped into his place as
substitute. Two years later, at the age of twenty-one, Lobat-
chewsky received a probationary appointment as 'Extra-
ordinary Professor"1 or, as would be said in America, Assistant
Professor.
Lobatchewsky*s promotion to an ordinary professorship came
in 1816 at the unusually early age of twenty-three. His duties
were heavy. In addition to his mathematical work he was
charged with courses in astronomy and physics, the former to
substitute for a colleague on leave. The fine balance with which
he carried his heavy load made him a conspicuous candidate for
yet more work, on the theory that a man who can do much is
capable of doing more, and presently Lobatchewsky found
himself University Librarian and curator of the chaotically
disordered University Museum.
Students are often an unruly lot before life teaches them that
generosity of spirit does not pay in the cut-throat business of
earning a living. Among Lobatchewsky's innumerable duties
from 1819 tiH the death of the Tsar Alexander in 1825 was that
of supervisor of all the students in Kazan, from the elementary
schools to the men taking post-graduate courses in the Univer-
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